How to Paint a Rebel (Confederate) Flag on Your Vehicle
Since Walmart, eBay, and Amazon have decided to censor freedom of expression by banning the sale of items that feature the Confederate (Rebel) flag and flag manufacturers all over the country have ceased making these flags, what's a Southerner (or a Northerner, if you feel so inclined!) to do? Well, pick up a few supplies at any of the aforementioned stores/sites (or better yet, boycott these and support your local community by picking up the supplies at a local Mom-and-Pop hobby/craft store) and paint your own flag! It's simple, looks great, and in addition to showing your Rebel Pride, you will have the satisfaction of being able to say — I did that myself!
- Blue Spray Paint
- Red Spray Paint
- White Spray Paint
- Star Stickers ~1" (x 13)
- 1" Painter's Masking Tape
- 1/4" Painter's Masking Tape
- Newspaper ("Thrifty Nickel " Classified papers are free)
- Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol (or Soap and Water)
- Razor Knife (or Sharp Pocket Knife)
- Bubble Level (optional)
- No. 2 Pencil (optional)
- NOTE — I didn't take photos at each step — this wasn't a planned instructional — so I will have to photoshop (or more accurately gimp — I run Linux) the steps over a photo of the completed project.
Mask Off and Paint the Background
After you decide where the flag should be painted, the first thing you need to do is clean the area. If you are painting a flag on your vehicle, chances are the paint job isn't a $3000 high gloss professional job anyway, so I used isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This is the best way to clean and prep an area to receive paint, but it will fog a high gloss paint job. If you are doing this over an expensive paint job, skip the alcohol and use mild soap and water instead. Just be sure to rinse off ALL of the soap residue or the paint won't adhere.
Once you have thoroughly cleaned the area, you will need to mask off the area to be painted. To make things easier, and to allow for the best possible coverage of the other colors, we'll paint the entire flag area white and layer the blue and red fields on top of that later. Using a bubble level to ensure that your lines are straight, lightly draw a rectangle with a #2 pencil to whatever size your finished flag will be. Place a strip of masking tape along the OUTSIDE of each line, overlapping the tape at each corner (photo 1). Use your fingernail or a credit/gift card to make sure that the tape is firmly pressed down, especially where the tape overlaps. If there are any gaps, or if the tape isn't pressed down completely, the spray paint will seep under the tape and bleed out.
Take sheets of newspaper and tape to each sheet to the tape that you've just laid down, being careful not to go inside the rectangle (photo 2). This will prevent the paint from over-spraying onto the vehicle's paint job.
Shake the can of white spray paint for a full minute or two after you hear the ball begin to rattle to ensure it is completely mixed. Holding the can about 8–10" from the surface to be painted, make long sweeping strokes from left to right with your arm (not your wrist), keeping the distance between the can and the vehicle the same for the entire length of the stroke. Overlap each stroke a little bit and continue until the entire rectangle is painted (photo 3). You may need two or three coats, depending on the color of your base paint. Remember, several light coats are better than a single thick coat.
Pull the newspaper off, leaving the first layer of tape in place, and let the white base coat dry. This may take 48–72 hours. Read your can to be sure. It is very important that the paint be FULLY cured between each step, as we have to tape over each preceding layer to mask off the areas that we don't want painted. You will have to redo the newspaper for each step. If the vehicle will not be driven during the entire painting process, you can leave it instead of replacing it at each step, but my truck is a daily driver, so I didn't have that luxury.
Lay Out the 'X' and Paint the Red Fields
After the white base coat has fully cured, replace the surrounding newspaper (if you removed it in the last step) and mark where the 'X' should be located. On my truck, I found that one inch in from each corner worked best. Measure from each corner of the white base the distance you've decided on (1" in my case) and make a mark on the masking tape. Do this around the entire rectangle for a total of eight marks, as seen in the first photo.
Take your 1/4" masking tape and, using the marks you just made as guides, run a length diagonally between each pair to form an 'X' (photo 1). Try to make the lines as straight as possible, but don't worry too much if the lines aren't exactly straight. There's an old sign-maker's rule — 50/50... from 50 feet going 50 mph, you aren't going to notice small imperfections. Run your fingernail or credit card along each line as you did for the border to ensure that the tape has adhered completely.
Using a razor knife (or sharp pocket knife), carefully cut the center portion of the 'X' (photo 2). Don't cut too deeply or you'll cut into the white base below. You can use the knife blade to carefully (I cannot stress the word 'carefully' enough) peel the unwanted portions of tape away.
Next, take strips of the 1" masking tape to cover the 'X' just barely overlapping the 1/4" tape you just laid down (photo 3).
Shake your red spray paint can for a minute or two and, using the same techniques you used to paint the white base, lay down a light coat or two of red paint (photo 4). Spray completely from left to right and don't worry about covering the blue tape in the 'X' — that's what it's there for. If you try to just spray each triangle red, it's not going to look as good as if you spray the entire rectangle.
Again, we have to wait for the paint to fully cure — 48 to 72 hours depending on your paint.
Mask the Stars and Paint the Blue 'X' Field
Once the red paint has cured, slowly pull the diagonal blue tape strips off the 'X'. You want to pull the tape at an angle away from the red paint. This helps keep the red paint from chipping as you remove the tape.
Now, take your little star stickers and place them in the white 'X' where you want the stars to show through, using photo 1 as a guide. Just like you did with the masking tape, run your fingernail or credit card across each star to be sure it completely adheres to the base.
Using strips of 1" masking tape, mask off the red field. I am sure you can do this any way you like, but I found it easiest to run horizontal strips across the red fields and then trim off the excess with a knife so that it doesn't overlap into the 'X' (photo 1). Be sure to use your fingernail or credit card along each strip.
After shaking your blue spray paint the often recommended minute or two, use the same techniques to spray the blue field — left to right; full coverage; light overlapping coats (photo 2)... I can tell you from experience DON'T try to spray the 'X' diagonally from corner to corner. You will wind up with too much paint in the center of the 'X' and that will cause runs in the paint.... eh, live and learn.
Let the blue paint set for 15 to 30 minutes (your paint can will give a "dries to the touch..." time frame) and then, VERY CAREFULLY, using the tip of your knife blade or a straight pin, remove each star. You want to do this before the paint has fully cured or they will be a PAIN to get off later! With the paint still uncured, you can pull the stars off with little trouble.
Let the paint cure for 48–72 hours and...
Remove the Masking and Voila!
Slowly pull all of the masking tape and newspaper off, in the reverse order you put it on. Now, grab a beer, sit back and admire your new Rebel Flag — painted by YOU!